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Vaaltyn discovers his path in the wilderness

Lumanyano Anthony Vaaltyn recently qualified as a field guide through the Wilderness Foundation Africa Siyazenzela training course which has changed his life. Picture: SUPPLIED
Lumanyano Anthony Vaaltyn recently qualified as a field guide through the Wilderness Foundation Africa Siyazenzela training course which has changed his life. Picture: SUPPLIED
Image: Supplied

The life of an Addo field guide has transformed from a feeling of hopelessness to a mindset of self-belief and determination since he recently qualified through a local training course.

Lumanyano Anthony Vaaltyn, 23, was among the top performers in the group that recently completed the Wilderness Foundation Africa Siyazenzela (We are doing it for ourselves) training course, which was followed by a field guide qualification, courtesy of the Community Conservation Fund Africa.

The foundation drives holistic skills development and conservation-based education interventions for vulnerable youth from previously disadvantaged communities. When Vaaltyn was selected he was unemployed and looking for work.

When I was selected to be sponsored for the course by the community conservation fund, I felt as if my dream had come true,’ Vaaltyn said.

‘At first my mom was a bit sceptical, She wasn’t sure I was the type of person who wanted to learn more about nature. But now I know she’s really impressed and proud about what I am doing and what I have achieved. This makes me feel good.’

The Siyazenzela training course reaches out to 240 vulnerable youth per year and focuses on emotional, social, occupational, financial, physical and environmental wellness as well as soft skills, leadership skills and resilience programmes.


The  Addo community project, launched in 2019, is an extension of the Siyazenzela programme, and has to date benefited a total of 22 youth between the ages of 18 and 26, enhancing their chances of finding employment.

The programme includes the four-week Siyazenzela life skills and employability skills course, as well as an intensive three-day Wilderness Trail, which aims to connect the youth to their cultural and environmental heritage. It draws attention to the healing power of nature for personal and social transformation.

Top students are then chosen to attend further training in order to equip them to become field guides in the conservation sector.

"The course has changed my life completely," Vaaltyn said. "I went from a feeling of hopelessness to a mindset of self-belief and determination."

Apart from the physical skills he learnt,  the course had started grooming him to become a better person, he said. 

"It feels like anything that is thrown my way I can handle."

He said the three days spent in the bush had affected him particularly.

"We slept under the stars and it was a time to really dig deep into myself.  It’s a time to reflect and think about what you are doing for yourself in your life and your future."

Vaaltyn said he now knows how important it is for the community and environment to be in harmony — a symbiotic relationship that benefits both as they live side-by-side.

"My dream is to become a successful guide. I also want to encourage and help others who want to work in conservation and tourism," he said.

Community Conservation Fund Africa executive director Di Luden said: "Through this programme we have, in partnership with Wilderness Foundation Africa provided  22 vulnerable, disadvantaged and unemployed young people the opportunity to change their lives by attending this life skills and mentorship training programme.

"We know that education is needed to highlight the bigger conservation picture and to encourage buy-in and support.

"Through our projects and interventions we are trying to shift mind sets, to encourage people to become more accountable for their actions and to safeguard our wildlife and wilderness areas —  this includes tourists, suppliers and the local community," Luden said.

A second intake of approximately 20 youth has been scheduled for June.

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